Slumping Diamondbacks prepare for pivotal road series againstthe Dodgers

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LOS ANGELES -- For the second weekend in a row, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a chance to take command of the NL West.

They missed an opportunity last week in Chase Field, where they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to take a 4 1/2 game lead with aces Dan Haren and Brandon Webb pitching the next two days.

The Diamondbacks dropped both those games, and now they take slim 1 1/2 game lead into the opener of a three-game series in Los Angeles tonight.

It's the final regular-season series between the rivals.

The D-backs are 8-7 against the Dodgers this year and have split six games in Chavez Ravine.

Defending NL West champion Arizona isn't exactly racing to the finish line. The D-backs are 71-68 overall and only 15-16 since Aug. 1.

In any other division, they wouldn't have a prayer of contending.

But their slump hasn't cost them much ground in the woeful NL West, where the D-backs are the only team with a winning record.

The Dodgers have shaved only 1 1/2 games off the lead since August 1st and have failed to make up ground although Arizona has lost dropped seven of its last 10 games.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)